The Lists

Our Guide to the Best Dance Festivals of the Summer 2018

Summer dance festival. Three little words that conjure up a world of beauty, grace, refinement – and also provocation, wild abandon, and heat. What could be better for a weekend adventure or a glorious week away this summer than a trip to one of the iconic dance festivals happening around the world? Whether it’s Lauren Lovette, Michelle Dorrance, or Misty Copeland, there are not-to-be-missed performances going on in every corner of the globe. Here’s our list of the best ballet and modern dance festivals happening in the summer of 2018.

Tickets are already on sale for some of these events, some are nearly sold out, and others are just about to become available, so this is a good time to get out your calendar and start scheduling.

Here’s our list of the top 10 that we can’t wait to see, starting with Memorial Day weekend and continuing all the way through to mid-August:

1. The Spoleto Festival USA, Charleston, South Carolina, May 25 – June 10, 2018 was founded in 1977, and celebrates a vast range of disciplines in the performing arts options: dance, chamber music, jazz, opera and theater. Performances are held in charming venues all over town, including churches, theaters and parks. It’s particularly geared toward new work, making the choreography especially interesting to see. This year, dance highlights include two programs from tap choreographer Michelle Dorrance; performances of One of Sixty-Five Thousand Gestures / NEW BODIES, created by postmodern choreographer Jodi Melnick and performed by New York City Ballet dancers Sara Mearns, Jared Angle and Gretchen Smith sans pointe shoes; and a tribute to Jerome Robbins from the Miami City Ballet. Stay at: The Wentworth Mansion or  The Belmond Charleston Place Don’t Miss: The return of dance troupe A.I.M. led by choreographer, director, and MacArthur Fellow Kyle Abraham – especially their new work Drive, which is grounded in hip-hop with a score by Theo Parrish and Mobb Deep – June 1-3.

2. The American Dance Festival, Durham, North Carolina, June 14 – July 21, 2018 celebrates its 85th year and its 41st year at its Duke University home. Highlights of the season include The Paul Taylor Dance Company; classic works by African-American choreographers performed by the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company; Wondrous Women, a program celebrating women choreographers including Camille A. Brown, Michelle Dorrrance, Rhapsody James, Aparna Ramaswamy, and Yabin Wang; and the annual Footprints concert with newly-commissioned works by Dafi Altabeb, Jillian Peña, and Abby Zbikowski. Stay at: The boutique 21c Museum Hotel Durham. Don’t miss: The presentation of a lifetime achievement award to acclaimed choreographer Ronald K. Brown prior to a performance from his company, Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE – June 28.

3. Jacob’s Pillow, June 20 – August 26, 2018 in Becket, Massachusetts is a truly magical performance space atop a mountain in the Berkshires. In 1930, then-leading modern dancers Ted Shawn and his wife, Ruth St. Denis, bought a farm as a retreat. A few years later they began mounting performances for small groups. Since then, Jacob’s Pillow has grown into a festival with over 20 different programs.  In addition to works developed at their experimental Pillow Lab, this summer’s highlights include the U.S. debut of Compañía Sharon Fridman; the Limón Dance Company; and an artist-curated program by New York City Ballet’s Daniel Ulbricht. Stay at: The Cranwell Resort or the newly-refurbished and luxurious Blantyre, both run by the Benerofe family in Lenox, MA. Don’t miss: The season’s opening performances by the Royal Danish Ballet – June 20-24.

Jacob’s Pillow, Becket, Massachusetts

4. The festival Les Etés de la Danse in Paris, June 25 – July 7, 2018 debuted in July 2005 to fill the vacuum created in the summer, when most Parisian theaters close their doors for vacation. Featuring both classical ballet and contemporary dance, this year’s season opens with an homage to choreographer Jerome Robbins. Five international ballet companies will be performing, including the New York City Ballet, the Miami City Ballet, the Joffrey and the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Stay at: The Four Seasons George V or Le Bristol Paris Don’t Miss: The Pacific Northwest Ballet’s performance of Christopher Wheeldon’s Tide Harmonic – July 3,6 and 7.

5. Festival d’Avignon, July 6 – 24, 2018 celebrates contemporary performing arts with an interdisciplinary program that includes music, dance, and theater. Founded by Jean Vilar in 1947, it’s a marvelous way to spend a few summer nights in Provence. As in past years, there will be 50 performances, approximately half of which are by French performers and the other half by performers ad creators from other parts of Europe and the world. Among the ten different dance performances this year are Grito Pelao by Rocio Molina; May He Rise and Smell the Fragrance by Ali Chahrour; Ode to the Attempt by Jan Martins; and 36, Avenue Georges Mandel by Raimond Haske. Stay at:  The Hotel Crillon le Brave or the boutique Hotel La Mirande in Avignon. Don’t miss: Ben & Luc, choreographed by performer Mickael Phelippeau – it’s an African contemporary dance event by Burkina Faso dancers Ben Salaah Cisse and Luke Sanou – July 21-24.

6. The Mostly Mozart Festival, July 12—August 12, 2018 has been expanded this year in an attempt to fill the gap that was left when the beloved Lincoln Center Festival ended its run this season after 22 years. This is Mostly Mozart’s 52nd year, and the program features a blend of North American and world premieres of classical and contemporary performances. The festival opens with a return to New York after 33 years of Available Light, a dance collaboration between choreographer Lucinda Childs, composer John Adams and architect Frank Gehry. Stay at: The Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Don’t miss: The Mark Morris Dance Group performing, among other works, a premiere set to Schubert’s Trout Quintet – August 12.

7. The New York City Ballet returns for its annual residency at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, July 17-21, 2018. This year the company will present a full-length story ballet choreographed by Peter Martins, as well as shorter pieces by George Balanchine, Justin Peck, Gianna Reisen, Lauren Lovette (Not Our Fate) and Jerome Robbins. Romeo and Juliet will also be performed at least three times this season. Stay at: The Saratoga Arms Hotel. Don’t miss: The annual Ballet Gala, a centennial celebration of Jerome Robbins and Leonard Bernstein, featuring three ballets set to scores by American composer Richard Rogers – July 21.

8. The Fire Island Dance Festival, July 20—22, 2018, is in its 24th year and features renowned international companies from a wide range of dance genres. It’s produced by and benefits Dancers Responding to AIDS, a program of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Set on an idyllic waterfront stage with the backdrop of the Great South Bay in Fire Island Pines, featured performers this year will be announced in late spring. In past years, contemporary choreography and storytelling have been fused with dance styles from throughout the world. Stay at: Contemporary guest house The Madison. Don’t miss: The unique setting – there are no cars, trucks, or motorcycles permitted on the island so you’ll be able to achieve true serenity.

9. The Nantucket Atheneum Dance Festival, July 23 – 28, 2018, is in its 11th year. Featuring stars from the New York City Ballet, Boston Ballet and Miami City Ballet, this year’s performances will be announced shortly, and tickets go on sale July 1st. Stay at: The White Elephant or the Wauwinet.

Vail International Dance Festival , Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, 2017 Photo Credit: Erin Baiano

10. The Vail International Dance Festival, July 28 – August 11, 2018 is in its 30th season, and features both ballet and modern dance. Directed by former New York City Ballet Principal Damian Woetzel, performances are held in the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, and over time the festival has become known for commissioning new works and for attracting world-class talent. This summer’s opening night will feature appearances by Alonzo King LINES Ballet and the American Ballet Theater performing the Vail premiere of Souvenir d’un Lieu, choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky. Other confirmed festival performers include Misty Copeland, Lauren Lovette, Tiler Peck, Joseph Gordon and Unity Phelan. Stay at: The Four Seasons Resort Vail or The Sonnenalp. Don’t miss: Ballet Hispanico – August 9.

Can’t you already feel the sweet summer breeze? We feel like dancing just thinking about some of these events. We’ve shared the best classical music and opera festivals and jazz festivals that should be on your itinerary this summer. It’s gonna be a cultural wonderland out there, people! The power of art to transform and unite should never be underestimated – make time for dance this summer, and you’ll be moved.

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